Packers returning to historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to play Rams for first time in 40 years

JR Radcliffe
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr (15) drops back to pass during Super Bowl I, a 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on January 15, 1967, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.

Sunday will mark the first time in 40 years the Green Bay Packers have played against the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, one of the nation's more hallowed sporting venues. The Packers last met the LA Rams there in 1978, two years before the franchise relocated to Anaheim Stadium and then to St. Louis from 1995-2015.

In 1978, the Packers were coached by Bart Starr, and quarterback David Whitehurst threw three interceptions as the Rams prevailed 31-14 in the final week of the season to finish 12-4. Green Bay finished 8-7-1, having tied the – wait for it – Minnesota Vikings a few weeks earlier. 

Starr was part of a far more memorable outing in the Coliseum for Packers fans many years before that. That would be Super Bowl I. 

The venue is undergoing a renovation project while serving as home venue for the Rams and USC Trojans. It has been the centerpiece of two Summer Olympics hosted in Los Angeles, in 1932 and 1984.

A look at Wisconsin-involved moments at the famous stadium:

Super Bowl I

Packers receiver Max McGee (85) runs into the endzone after making a one-handed catch at the Memorial Coliseum during the First World Championship Game, Super Bowl I, January15, 1967.

On Jan. 15, 1967, Green Bay beat the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL 35-10 in the Coliseum, led by MVP Bart Starr, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Elijah Pitts ran for two scores and Max McGee caught both TD passes as part of his seven-catch, 138-yard day. 

The "AFL-NFL World Championship Game" was established during a merger agreement in 1966. The term Super Bowl had been bandied about at that point, but it wasn't officially adopted until the fourth Super Bowl in 1970. Super Bowl I also didn't sell out as people tried to make sense of the new structure -- the attendance of 61,946 was quite a bit smaller than a regular-season game between the Packers and Rams just one month earlier (72,418). Super Bowl I was thus blacked out on televisions in the Los Angeles area.

The number of Packers on that team who ultimately earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is staggering: Starr, Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg, Jim Taylor, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Dave Robinson, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood.

The Coliseum also hosted the 1973 Super Bowl (Super Bowl VII) between the Dolphins and the Redskins (Miami won 14-7).

The Rams won the rematch in 1967

Linebacker Tony Gullory (88) of the Los Angeles Rams blocks a punt by Danny Anderson of the Green Bay Packers in the final minute of their game in Los Angeles, on Dec. 9, 1967. Claude Crabb of the Rams (not shown) picked up the ball and ran it to the five-yard line, from where the Rams scored two plays later to win 27-24 and keep their hopes alive for the championship of the Coastal Division of the National League.

On the path to Super Bowl II, the Packers went back to the Coliseum to face the Rams, a team the Packers had defeated in December of 1966 in the final game before their NFL Championship win over the Dallas Cowboys on January 1.

But this time, the Rams got even. A blocked punt in the final minute set up Roman Gabriel's touchdown pass that gave his team a 27-24 win over the Packers, lifting the Rams to 10-1-2 and dropping the Packers to 9-3-1.

But the Packers would meet the Rams again at County Stadium in Milwaukee on Dec. 23 in the divisional championship game, and Green Bay prevailed 28-7. That was the prelude to the Dec. 31 Ice Bowl, won by the Packers 21-17 over the Cowboys. Two weeks later, Green Bay beat the Oakland Raiders for a second straight Super Bowl title.

The Bob Wieland Game

Bob Wieland watches a Greenfield/Greendale football game in 1987. Wieland was quarterback for Greenfield in 1964.

Of course, the Rams haven't been the only tenant at the Coliseum -- the Los Angeles Raiders played there, as well.

Perhaps the most famous occasion in which the Packers played the Raiders at the Coliseum came in 1990, when Bob Wieland -- a Vietnam veteran who had both his legs amputated following an explosion in combat -- gave a pregame speech that inspired a Packers upset. Green Bay finished 6-10 that year but held Bo Jackson to 25 yards and Marcus Allen to 17 in staging the 29-16 victory. 

Wieland, a Greenfield native who had been invited to speak by then-Packers coach Lindy Infante, became a trainer with the Packers and has since competed in a number of marathons.

The Raiders went on to finish 12-4 and reach the AFC Championship Game, where they fell to the Bills.

The 1959 National League 'playoffs'

Managers for Los Angeles Dodgers (Walter Alston, right) and Milwaukee Braves (Fred Haney) ready to start first pennant playoff series game, shake hands in 1959 before a best-of-3 playoff battle.

Before there was such a thing as a Super Bowl, the Milwaukee Braves were looking for their third straight trip to the World Series, having split seven-game battles with the New York Yankees in 1957 and '58. 

The Braves tied the Los Angeles Dodgers with identical 86-68 records at the end of the 1959 season, forcing a best-of-three tiebreaker series to determine who would represent the National League. The Dodgers had just moved from Brooklyn in 1958, and Dodger Stadium wouldn't be ready until 1962, so the franchise played four years at the Coliseum.

After the Braves lost their game against the Dodgers 3-2 at County Stadium, the series shifted to the Coliseum, where the Dodgers won a 6-5 thriller in 12 innings. Los Angeles scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, and an error by Felix Mantilla allowed the winning run to score in extras. Los Angeles won the playoff series and went on to win the World Series, topping the Chicago White Sox in six games.

It would be the last postseason sniff for the Milwaukee Braves, who left town in 1965. 

The Badgers haven't had much luck there

Wisconsin offensive tackle Aaron Gibson (79) stretches with his teammates in the Los Angeles Coliseum during practice Sunday, Dec. 27, 1998, in Los Angeles. Wisconsin is scheduled to play UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Friday in Pasadena, Calif. Gibson was a finalist for the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award.

Wisconsin football had never beaten USC until the 2015 Holiday Bowl in San Diego, with setbacks in the other six meetings against the Trojans -- none prior to 1966. Wisconsin's games at the Coliseum have ended in a 38-3 loss in '66 and a 33-21 loss in 1955, but the Badgers did give the Trojans a run for their money in the 1963 Rose Bowl, the first-ever bowl meeting between a No. 1 and No. 2 ranked team. The second-ranked Badgers rallied furiously before falling just short in Pasadena (14 miles away), 42-37.

The brothers Watt paid a visit

The pride of Pewaukee, NFL brothers JJ, Derek and TJ Watt, once visited the ... oh wait, this is a different coliseum.

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